As a well known figure in the Bible, you might think David is the kind of person who brought Jesus into every conversation. But David’s story is a little more complex.
David was born about a thousand years before Jesus. And although he was very into God, he also had a side that was not super holy. Like all of us, with David, you get the good with the bad.
If you go way back, David was a nobody, from nowhere. In this case, nowhere is a small town called Bethlehem. We only know about it because of where Jesus was born, but it is little more than a hotel town outside of Jerusalem.
David was born and raised in Bethlehem as a shepherd. Now, you have to understand that shepherding can get rough—you have to deal with wolves and the weather. Some shepherds spent months away from home following their flock. They had to deal with the perils of living off the land as they kept their sheep safe. That meant they didn’t shower much, change their clothes, or experience the finer things in life.
One day David was minding his own business, shepherding, and out of the blue, a prophet of God came by and said that God had selected him as king. The problem was that there was already a king, and his name was Saul. This didn’t sit well with the existing king. The next couple of years David spent running from Saul. You can read this whole story in the book of 1 Samuel chapters 16-31.
David’s background isn’t what you’d expect from someone who God called to be king. Look for yourself in 2 Samuel 11. When David is finally king, he decides to walk out on the rooftop of his palace, and he sees a woman taking a bath and he thinks, “Wow, she’s beautiful – I wish she was my wife.” And suddenly, he orders his servants to have her brought to the palace so he can sleep with her.
Any person has the potential to fall to temptation and sin…but something is different about David’s situation. Absolute power seems to have corrupted him. It doesn’t matter that he already has a wife, or that the woman he lusted after had a husband. It doesn’t even seem to matter when David finds out the woman is pregnant after their time together—he devises a scheme to cover up the sin when he brings her husband home from his military tour to spend time with his wife, and hopefully no one will ask questions.
But David’s problem came when Uriah, the woman’s husband, wasn’t compliant in the cover up. Every person in David’s palace knew what had happened. Servants and attendants observed his request to bring the woman to him, and the town was ablaze with whispers of David’s infidelities. Uriah knew what had happened, and he refused to return to spend time with his wife.
And so instead of coming to his senses, confessing his sin, and repenting, David gets angry. Technically, Uriah refusing his request is insubordination to a king. David wants to erase his connection to the woman, and Uriah isn’t going to help him. So David devises a plot to return him to the front lines and have him killed in battle. Uriah was murdered.
Pride, lust, lies, and murder are all part of David’s history. He had no one in his life to keep him accountable.
This is a quick snapshot of David’s life: a man who is unquestionably flawed, but deeply in love with God. This isn’t some epic Homeric poem. This is not a myth. This is the history of a man who had some good and some bad. David is a man who tries to make sense of God’s place in his life and at some points follows God closely, and at other points makes a mess.
And perhaps the most fascinating thing about David is how God describes him. David is described by God as a man after God’s own heart. Intensely devout. Strong. Able to lead. Passionate but flawed and far from perfect.
David is, in many ways, a picture of who we are within. Perhaps that is the most encouraging thing in that though we too are flawed, we can still have a place in the heart of God.
If you want to know more about David, start by reading the books of 1 and 2 Samuel in the Bible. Then, to get more background, here are some resources to get started:
1 Samuel Video Overview
2 Samuel Video Overview
The Bible Project : David Resources
The Life of David : Sermon Series by R.C. Sproul
The Good Shepherd : by Kenneth Bailey
The Life of King David : How God Works Through Ordinary Outcasts and Extraordinary Sinners : by J.S. Park
If you’ve enjoyed the series When Your Back’s Against the Wall and are interested in learning more about David and the background to this Psalm, we have a series of group studies on the David behind Psalm 143 available here.